“She isn’t a baby,” Twirls says to me, sitting on the end of my bed.
“She is to me,” I reply simply, as my baby sister wanders the house, getting ready to go out with friends, no doubt.
“Isn’t she taller than you?”
“Yeah, she’s still my baby sister.”
She will always be my baby sister.
I’m not entirely sure why I call her my “baby” sister. One might assume it’s out of habit, remembering her from when she was a baby. Except that I don’t remember her as a baby. I was a baby myself when she came along two years and two weeks after me. It’s the largest gap between siblings in my family and it’s been the hardest to bridge, I think. Still, for some reason I’ve decided that she is my baby sister, whether she likes it or not. And she will always be my baby sister, no matter how old she gets.
Today my baby sister graduates from high school. She will walk across the stage at Lincoln Park, just as I did three years ago, receive her diploma, hug Mrs. Manning and move that funny tassel from one side of her head to the other. She will leave the school, her school, for the first time not as a student, but as an alumnus. And, while I won’t get to see her walk, at least I get to help her get ready, doing her hair and seeing her all dressed up before I’m trapped in a car for four hours on the way to a friend’s wedding.
My sister and I have had an interesting relationship, as I’m sure all sisters have. Erin has always had the more dominant personality. When we were little she would always be in charge of the games, and I, the passive big sister, would give in. I think I spoiled her… scratch that, I know I spoiled her. She’s my baby sister and I have always, and will always, want to give her everything I can. When she wants something, I get it for her, if she wants to go somewhere, I take her. If it’s in my power, I will do it for her. I realize that’s not always necessarily good, but I love her and I want to make her happy, no matter what it costs me.
When we were little we would play for hours on this rock pile behind our house. We would mix mud and climb the apple trees for half-ripe fruit to cut with shards of slate to mix in whatever we thought we were making. We would play in the barn, even though we weren’t supposed to, jumping on hay bails and dancing in the lofts. Erin has always been much braver than I am. She would squeeze into places only the cats would go and jump from the lofts onto the wagons parked below. My brother and I took to calling her “the monkey” because of her climbing habits. She can literally climb just about anything and will, if given the opportunity. She will occasionally do back walk-overs for fun, or run into a flip. She hasn’t taken gymnastics for a long time, but she still has nearly all the skills she picked up.
I took my sister on a coffee date and talked about life for a couple hours. It’s something we really should do more often. My baby sister is the “problem child.” She’s more of a challenge than my brother and I were, she has different friends and a very different personality. But you know what? She’s smart. She knows what she wants and she goes for it. And I know she’s going to turn out all right. My baby sister is graduating high school today and she is going to do great, where ever she goes. And no matter how far away she might wander, she will still be my baby sister and I will still be there to take care of her when she needs me. All she has to do is call.